Hey, do you remember the time that actor from Hogan’s Heroes revived his failing career with a fantastic comedy film? You don’t? Well, that’s probably because, despite Bob Crane’s fervent hopes, it never happened. Directed by Vincent McEveety, Superdad is a boring, creepy film that has nothing for anybody, and is probably a career low for an actor best know for foiling Colonel Klink.
The film begins as Charley McCready (Bob Crane) dreams about his daughter as a little girl, his gravely voice ominously narrating his dissatisfaction with her childhood romances. No one would be good enough for his Sue (Barbara Rush), it would seem, especially not neighborhood dumbass Bart (Kurt Russell). Charlie’s dream sets up Mr. McCready’s dislike for Bart very nicely, but has the unintended effect of making him sound like a fucking psychopath.
It’s a risk you run any time you overlay an angry man’s sleeping face over a picture of children.
He awakes from his exposition-dream just in time to creep downstairs and grunt his disapproval at his daughter making out with Bart, but when they don’t stop, he just stands there and watches them. It’s uncomfortable.
He looks more pissed at them than he ever was at the Germans.
Anyhow, Sue spends her days with a bunch of loser kids who hang out at the beach all the damn time and have no ambition. McCready is sick of it, and after listening to a TV psychologist tell him that the generation gap exists because parents aren’t involved in their children’s lives, he begins following the kids around the beach, trying to keep up with them at surfing, volleyball, and water-skiing. Predictably, he fails at all of this.
He wins at being the sweatiest beach creeper, though.
Having utterly failed to make any sort of connection with the youth, McCready becomes more withdrawn and bitter. He decides to fuck up his daughter’s chances with Bart by pretending she has won a scholarship to a faraway college. But when his deception is in danger of being revealed, he’s forced to go up to her campus to salvage the situation, and somehow gets arrested for being a Peeping Tom after falling off a ladder into a pool via a trampoline. Trust me, it’s much less fun than it sounds.
No sentence this judge could hand down would be worse than watching Superdad.
But Bart keeps at it, going up to visit Sue on weekends. So McCready tries to sabotage things further by setting Sue up with a law student who sounds like he’ll grow up to be Frank Underwood. When she finds she’s being manipulated, Sue runs away from home, a pretty good call, seeing as her father is fucking terrifying.
At this point I should mention that there is something that might be described as a subplot about McCready’s boss, Cyrus Hershberger (Joe Flynn), whose business is having public relations problems. The movie seems to think that naming a company Hershberger’s Hamburgers is enough of a joke to cover several extended scenes. It is not.
Also, Dick Van Patten is in all the Hershberger scenes, but doesn’t seem to do anything.
But wonder of wonders, this actually ties into the plot! Turns out Sue has taken up with some creep who likes to protest Hershberger’s Hamburgers down by the docks. And she’s on TV with him. Oh no. What will Hershberger think? Does anyone care?
No, they don’t.
Obviously Sue needs to be saved from a fate worse than Bart, so McCready goes down to confront this strange man, name of Klutch (Joby Baker). Shit! He’s a psychotic art student.
What could be worse?
McCready and Bart fight Klutch. They win. They make up. McCready decides that Bart can have Sue after all. Hooray.
The pivotal question at the center of Superdad is what course will Sue’s life take? As such, it’s telling, and a little disconcerting, that Charlie McCready is the protagonist, not Sue. Seriously, the level of control McCready feels he has a right to exert over his daughter’s life would be more fitting for a horror movie than a comedy. He monitors who she makes out with. He creates a fake scholarship in order to control where she receives her education. He lies to her friends in order to set her up with a creepy Southern lawyer. Fuck.
“I made her, she’s mine to do with what I will.”
Sue isn’t a person who gets to decide her own fate; she is a parcel to be handed off from one protector to another. The other men in her life are no less manipulative. Her beloved Bart lies to her about his own academic prowess in order to follow her to college. He does this to help their relationship, so shouldn’t she have some sort of say? Nope. He’s the man, so he gets to make the decision unilaterally. She doesn’t even get a consult.
I get to decide your future because I have a one-eyed trouser-Plissken.
Oh, and of course there’s Klutch, who literally claims ownership of her because he gave her a painting. It’s fucked up. At the end, McCready goes down to the docks to inform Klutch that the engagement is off, but why take such a course at all? This man is threatening and out of touch with reality. Sue never accepted his proposal. Why not call the cops? By going down to negotiate with her self-proclaimed fiancé, McCready lends his claims legitimacy.
I’m sorry, Klutch, there isn’t enough legitimacy in the world.
But there we are; Dad, Bart, and Klutch all treat Sue like a treasure that can be given, taken, or hoarded at will, not a human being with agency to make her own decisions. ‘Cause remember, kids, decisions are for the men.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
There is almost nothing whatsoever in this movie that is enjoyable, appealing, or in any way watchable. Bob Crane is so far from being funny that it hurts. He glares and he growls, but just when you convince yourself that you’re actually watching a horror movie about a terrifyingly dominating patriarch who wants to control every aspect of his daughter’s life, he pops on a pair of skis and starts fake screaming. Because that’s comedy, apparently.
Oh, and it’s dull. So damn boring. There is so much empty space in this movie that you could probably cut it down into a 4o-minute TV episode. Sure, there would be less shots of Crane purposelessly glaring into space, but damn it, it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make.
- That tall kid in the middle of the gang? That’s a young Ed Begley Jr.
And he brought his dress eyebrows.
- One of the kids films McCready getting into an embarrassing water-skiing accident, and all the kids watch it later. Yet somehow the version they’re watching has edits and wide shots. How the hell did he get this shot from inside the boat?
Shit, they’re just watching Superdad. Change the channel.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
Would “the whole movie” count as an answer for this section? Since I’ve already covered the worst shit, I’ll share something that a friend who joined me for the movie pointed out: all the girls on the beach are wearing bikinis… except for the one girl who is just a tiny bit heavier. She gets a baggy shirt instead.
And she’s frequently partially out of the shot as well.
I truly hope that this article is the most Superdad you ever have in your life. It is a dreadful way to spend an hour and a half. If you’re dead set on watching Hogan fail at reviving his acting career, you’ll have much more fun putting the intro to The Bob Crane Show on a loop for 90 minutes.
Herbie Rides Again (1974)